Fresh from two weeks of warm weather training out in Aguilas, Gill was the first of the team to test her winter fitness with an early season World Triathlon Series opener in Abu Dhabi on Friday 3rd of March. In the week leading up to the race, things were looking promising as she breezed to victory in a local non-drafting triathlon in Dubai. The following weekend it was over to Abu Dhabi to line up against the best in the world on Yas Island. With the 1500m swim completed in a time of 20:43, Gill was 1:32 down on the leaders, but safely within a large pack of girls. The Yas Marina Formula 1 circuit would play host to the 40km ride which will be one of the most technical seen on the World Series circuit this year. Comprised of ten 4km laps, it was sure to be a tough one, yet Gill saw herself gain 4 places, coming off the bike in 24th position in a time of 1:10:58. Onto the 10km run and she continued to hunt them down, finishing 20th overall with a run time of 37:43. Gill will line up again on the Gold Coast for the second round of the series at the beggining of April.
It doesn’t stop there for the team. Winter can only mean one thing for our youth and junior athletes – cross country, and for a bunch of triathetes our young guys sure can run! On Saturday the 18th of March we had 2 of our youth and 2 of our junior athletes line up for the English Schools cross country championships – the most competitive cross country in England for young runners. Freya Thompson (youth), Izzy Atkins (youth) and Jenny Silva (Junior) all lined up in the intermediate girls race over a hilly 3.75km. Freya put in a storming run to finish 20th in a time of 13:16, with Izzy (13:50) and Jenny (14:17) coming 73rd and 147th respectively in the field of 344 girls. Greg Atkins (junior) represented the boys of the team, lining up against the likes of Ben Dijkstra in the senior mens race, which took place over 7.2km. Putting in a great run, Greg finished in 143rd position in a field of 324 with a time of 24:47.
The following day, 9 of the team headed over to Dorney Lake to complete their first duathlon of the season in the third of the F3 Events winter series. For those racing the British Super Series this would be preparation for the fast approaching British Duathlon Championships on the 9th of April. For anyone who’s ever raced at Dorney Lake, wind is pretty much a given; race day was definitely no exception and the team had an intense headwind to contend with. Jacob Patterson, Kirill Kondrasin and Bella Penny lined up in the Super Sprint event – 2.5km of running, followed by a 12km bike and a second 2.5km run to finish. To say that the team dominated this race would be an understatement. Jacob finished 1st in a time of 36:30, with Kirill in close second in 36:45. Bella had a storming race, also finishing in 1st place with a time of 44:53, beating the second lady over the line by nearly 5 minutes!
Archie St Aubyn, Paul Burton, Reef Boericke and coach James Beckinsale made up the mens contingent of the sprint race – 5km of running, 20km on the bike and a final 5km run to finish. TT bikes and disc wheels at the ready they stormed the course – Archie finishing top of the field in 1st with an overall time of 1:04:50, nearly 3 minutes clear of Paul who finished in 2nd in 1:07:45. James was the next of the team to finish, coming 12th overall in 1:11:58 and beating Reef who finished in 17th with a time of 1:13:03 (2nd junior) – will he ever let him live it down!? Representing the girls of the team in the sprint race was Jess Wenlock and Alice Patterson. This was Alice’s first race as a junior and not only was it her first time completing 5km of running in a race, but she would have to do it twice! She put in a fantastic effort finishing in 5th overal and 1st junior with a time of 1:20:29. Jess too put in a great effort, finishing 1st in 1:17:48. As a team we can be very proud of our efforts and can say that the organisers do a great job of putting on a fantastic, smoothly run event.
Its safe to say that racing is well underway for Optima Team and the hard winter miles appear to be paying off!